Barbados is a popular stop for Caribbean cruise vacations, and the western part of the island (sometimes called the "Platinum Coast") is prime territory for snorkeling, with gentle waters, a variety of underwater sights (including close-to-the surface shipwrecks), and diverse ocean life such as brain coral, sea fans, sponges, plenty of varieties of fish and sea turtles. There are plenty of group tours available that will take you from the cruise port to several spots around the island for swimming and snorkeling. If you want to head out on your own, visit Mullins Beach or Heywoods Beach -- both offer coral formations worth exploring.
2. Grand Turk
Though it still has the feel of an off-the-beaten-path destination in the Caribbean, Grand Turk boasts one of the best cruise ports in the Caribbean, with its own beach a swimming pool, cabanas for rent and even a surfing simulator. It also offers incredible opportunities for snorkeling, with spots like Governor's Beach, White Sands Beach and Pillory Beach. You can rent gear (or bring your own of course) and snorkel right off the beach at all three. Highly popular (and highly recommended) are day excursions to Gibbs Cay, an uninhabited offshore island that is just a short boat ride away. The untouched beaches on the island are perfect for sunbathing, barbecuing, picnics and general lazing, while translucent blue waters and pristine coral reefs provide the perfect backdrop for snorkeling. The island is particularly noted for the docile stingrays that dwell there, which you can feed and pet.
3. St. Martin/St. Marteen
The crystal-clear blue waters that surround this island shared by the French and Dutch offer some of the Caribbean's best underwater visibility, making this a perfect port-of-call if you want to snorkel during your cruise vacation. The government has taken great measures to protect the shallow coral reefs that surround the island, as well as the large numbers of fish and sea turtles that call the reefs home. While there are many snorkeling spots, Dawn Beach on the eastern side of the island is considered by many to be the best, but the surf and amount of swimming required can be challenging, so it caters better to experienced swimmers. Tiki Hut Snorkel Park in Philipsburg is a viable alternative, and caters to all ages and experience levels.
4. St. Thomas Part of the U.S. Virgin Islands
St. Thomas is a port-of-call for many cruises throughout the Eastern Caribbean. Coki Point is among the most popular beaches on the island, and boasts a reef area close to shore and a dive shop on site where you can rent snorkeling gear as well as other water sports equipment. Sapphire Beach is another option, with its own shallow reefs to explore while you're in the water, and a beach bar that sometimes features live music. Both these beaches are ideally suited for days in port where you want to enjoy a combination of sunning, swimming, snorkeling and socializing.
5. Cozumel Part of Mexico
This small, idyllic gem off the coast of the Yucatan is a popular stop for cruise vacations in the Western Caribbean. When your cruise ship docks in Cozumel, you will enjoy a classic Caribbean setting with a distinct Mexico flavor, as well as miles of protected reefs that provide world-class snorkeling and scuba-diving. Natural currents keep the water clean and the coral supplied with nutrients, providing an unparalleled underwater environment and superb visibility while submerged (some actually rate the diving experience here above that in Australia's famous Great Barrier Reef).
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